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Clever Girl: Elizabeth Bentley, the Spy Who Ushered in the McCarthy Era

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Clever Girl: Elizabeth Bentley, the Spy Who Ushered in the McCarthy Era Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

New England-born, conservatively raised, and Vassar-educated, Elizabeth Bentley was groomed for a quiet life in the 1920s as a teacher at an East Coast boarding school. But in her mid-twenties she embraced communism and fell in love with an undercover KGB agent who initiated her into the world of espionage. By the time America plunged into World War II, Bentley was directing the operations of the two largest spy rings in America. Her sources were everywhere — from the Departments of Treasury and Commerce to the Oval Office.

When she defected in 1945 and told her story, Bentley was catapulted to fame as "the Red Spy Queen." She was the government's star witness and the FBI's most important informer. Her disclosures and accusations put a halt to Soviet spying for years and helped to set the tone of American postwar political life, ushering in the McCarthy Era.

But who was Elizabeth Bentley? A smart, independent woman, or a pawn used and manipulated by others? Drawing on copious research — including recently disclosed documents — Clever Girl tells the compelling, ultimately tragic story of politics and betrayal.

Review:

"Despite Kessler's best efforts, the result falls short as spy thriller, as biography and as history." Publishers Weekly

Review:

"Kessler manages to keep it all interesting, helping to make Clever Girl not only an insightful biography of an extraordinary American woman but a thrilling character-driven drama as well." San Francisco Chronicle

Review:

"Kessler's book is impressively researched, relying heavily on internal FBI documents, letters written by Bentley herself, contemporary news accounts and interviews with eyewitnesses, including the FBI agent to whom Bentley first confessed." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Review:

"Kessler's sensitivity shines as she retells Bentley's path from genteel Yankee childhood to Vassar 'sad sack' to liberated 'naughty girl' in 1930s Italy — and then into the Communist underground." Boston Globe

Review:

"Lauren Kessler's thoughtful and well-researched biography...chronicles Bentley's tragic life as a Soviet spy and later as an FBI informant." Cleveland Plain Dealer

Review:

"Kessler...has written a spellbinding tale of a woman who fell prey to her idealism and was then swept up in the furor of the Red Scare." Library Journal

Review:

"Overwritten and slack, but of some interest to students of the Cold War era and American radical movements." Kirkus Reviews

Synopsis:

Communists vilified her as a raging neurotic. Leftists dismissed her as a confused idealist. Her family pitied her as an exploited lover. Some said she was a traitor, a stooge, a mercenary and a grandstander. To others she was a true American heroine&#151; fearless, principled, bold and resolute. Congressional committees loved her. The FBI hailed her as an avenging angel. The Catholics embraced her. But the fact is, more than half a century after she captured the headlines as the &#147; Red Spy Queen, &#148; Elizabeth Bentley remains a mystery. <P>New England-born, conservatively raised, and Vassar-educated, Bentley was groomed for a quiet life, a small life, which she explored briefly in the 1920s as a teacher, instructing well-heeled young women on the beauty of Romance languages at an east coast boarding school. But in her mid-twenties, she rejected both past and future and set herself on an entirely new course. In the 1930s she embraced communism and fell in love with an undercover KGB agent who initiated her into the world of espionage. By the time America plunged into WWII, Elizabeth Bentley was directing the operations of the two largest spy rings in America. Eventually, she had eighty people in her secret apparatus, half of them employees of the federal government. Her sources were everywhere: in the departments of Treasury and Commerce, in New Deal agencies, in the top-secret OSS (the precursor to the CIA), on Congressional committees, even in the Oval Office. <P>When she defected in 1945 and told her story&#151; first to the FBI and then at a series of public hearings and trials&#151; she was catapulted to tabloid fame as the &#147; Red Spy Queen, &#148; ushering in, almostsingle-handedly, the McCarthy Era. She was the government&#146; s star witness, the FBI&#146; s most important informer, and the darling of the Catholic anti-Communist movement. Her disclosures and accusations put a halt to Russian spying for years and helped to set the tone

Synopsis:

Communists vilified her as a raging neurotic. Leftists dismissed her as a confused idealist. Her family pitied her as an exploited lover. Some said she was a traitor, a stooge, a mercenary and a grandstander. To others she was a true American heroine&#8212;fearless, principled, bold and resolute. Congressional committees loved her. The FBI hailed her as an avenging angel. The Catholics embraced her. But the fact is, more than half a century after she captured the headlines as the "Red Spy Queen," Elizabeth Bentley remains a mystery.

New England-born, conservatively raised, and Vassar-educated, Bentley was groomed for a quiet life, a small life, which she explored briefly in the 1920s as a teacher, instructing well-heeled young women on the beauty of Romance languages at an east coast boarding school. But in her mid-twenties, she rejected both past and future and set herself on an entirely new course. In the 1930s she embraced communism and fell in love with an undercover KGB agent who initiated her into the world of espionage. By the time America plunged into WWII, Elizabeth Bentley was directing the operations of the two largest spy rings in America. Eventually, she had eighty people in her secret apparatus, half of them employees of the federal government. Her sources were everywhere: in the departments of Treasury and Commerce, in New Deal agencies, in the top-secret OSS (the precursor to the CIA), on Congressional committees, even in the Oval Office.

When she defected in 1945 and told her story&#8212;first to the FBI and then at a series of public hearings and trials&#8212;she was catapulted to tabloid fame as the "Red Spy Queen," ushering in, almost single-handedly, the McCarthy Era. She was the governments star witness, the FBIs most important informer, and the darling of the Catholic anti-Communist movement. Her disclosures and accusations put a halt to Russian spying for years and helped to set the tone of American postwar political life.

But who was she? A smart, independent woman who made her choices freely, right and wrong, and had the strength of character to see them through? Or was she used and manipulated by others? Clever Girl is the definitive biography of a conflicted American woman and her controversial legacy. Set against the backdrop of the political drama that defined mid-twentieth century America, it explores the spy case whose explosive domestic and foreign policy repercussions have been debated for decades but not fully revealed&#8212;until now.

About the Author

Lauren Kessler is the author of ten books, among them the Los Angeles Times bestseller The Happy Bottom Riding Club: The Life and Times of Pancho Barnes and Stubborn Twig: Three Generations in the Life of a Japanese American Family. Kessler directs the graduate program in literary nonfiction at the University of Oregon. She lives in Eugene, Oregon.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780060959739
Subtitle:
Elizabeth Bentley, the Spy Who Ushered in the McCarthy Era
Publisher:
Harper Perennial
Author:
Kessler, Lauren
Author:
by Lauren Kessler
Author:
Lauren
Author:
Kessler
Location:
New York
Subject:
General
Subject:
Americas (North Central South West Indies)
Subject:
Communism
Subject:
Intelligence service
Subject:
Espionage, Soviet
Subject:
Informers.
Subject:
Women communists
Subject:
United States - General
Edition Number:
1st ed.
Edition Description:
Trade PB
Series Volume:
NASA TN D-5029
Publication Date:
20040803
Binding:
Paperback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
400
Dimensions:
8.00x5.40x.97 in. .76 lbs.

Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Military » Espionage

Clever Girl: Elizabeth Bentley, the Spy Who Ushered in the McCarthy Era
0 stars - 0 reviews
$ In Stock
Product details 400 pages Harper Perennial - English 9780060959739 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Despite Kessler's best efforts, the result falls short as spy thriller, as biography and as history." Publishers Weekly
"Review" by , "Kessler manages to keep it all interesting, helping to make Clever Girl not only an insightful biography of an extraordinary American woman but a thrilling character-driven drama as well."
"Review" by , "Kessler's book is impressively researched, relying heavily on internal FBI documents, letters written by Bentley herself, contemporary news accounts and interviews with eyewitnesses, including the FBI agent to whom Bentley first confessed."
"Review" by , "Kessler's sensitivity shines as she retells Bentley's path from genteel Yankee childhood to Vassar 'sad sack' to liberated 'naughty girl' in 1930s Italy — and then into the Communist underground."
"Review" by , "Lauren Kessler's thoughtful and well-researched biography...chronicles Bentley's tragic life as a Soviet spy and later as an FBI informant."
"Review" by , "Kessler...has written a spellbinding tale of a woman who fell prey to her idealism and was then swept up in the furor of the Red Scare."
"Review" by , "Overwritten and slack, but of some interest to students of the Cold War era and American radical movements."
"Synopsis" by , Communists vilified her as a raging neurotic. Leftists dismissed her as a confused idealist. Her family pitied her as an exploited lover. Some said she was a traitor, a stooge, a mercenary and a grandstander. To others she was a true American heroine&#151; fearless, principled, bold and resolute. Congressional committees loved her. The FBI hailed her as an avenging angel. The Catholics embraced her. But the fact is, more than half a century after she captured the headlines as the &#147; Red Spy Queen, &#148; Elizabeth Bentley remains a mystery. <P>New England-born, conservatively raised, and Vassar-educated, Bentley was groomed for a quiet life, a small life, which she explored briefly in the 1920s as a teacher, instructing well-heeled young women on the beauty of Romance languages at an east coast boarding school. But in her mid-twenties, she rejected both past and future and set herself on an entirely new course. In the 1930s she embraced communism and fell in love with an undercover KGB agent who initiated her into the world of espionage. By the time America plunged into WWII, Elizabeth Bentley was directing the operations of the two largest spy rings in America. Eventually, she had eighty people in her secret apparatus, half of them employees of the federal government. Her sources were everywhere: in the departments of Treasury and Commerce, in New Deal agencies, in the top-secret OSS (the precursor to the CIA), on Congressional committees, even in the Oval Office. <P>When she defected in 1945 and told her story&#151; first to the FBI and then at a series of public hearings and trials&#151; she was catapulted to tabloid fame as the &#147; Red Spy Queen, &#148; ushering in, almostsingle-handedly, the McCarthy Era. She was the government&#146; s star witness, the FBI&#146; s most important informer, and the darling of the Catholic anti-Communist movement. Her disclosures and accusations put a halt to Russian spying for years and helped to set the tone

"Synopsis" by , Communists vilified her as a raging neurotic. Leftists dismissed her as a confused idealist. Her family pitied her as an exploited lover. Some said she was a traitor, a stooge, a mercenary and a grandstander. To others she was a true American heroine&#8212;fearless, principled, bold and resolute. Congressional committees loved her. The FBI hailed her as an avenging angel. The Catholics embraced her. But the fact is, more than half a century after she captured the headlines as the "Red Spy Queen," Elizabeth Bentley remains a mystery.

New England-born, conservatively raised, and Vassar-educated, Bentley was groomed for a quiet life, a small life, which she explored briefly in the 1920s as a teacher, instructing well-heeled young women on the beauty of Romance languages at an east coast boarding school. But in her mid-twenties, she rejected both past and future and set herself on an entirely new course. In the 1930s she embraced communism and fell in love with an undercover KGB agent who initiated her into the world of espionage. By the time America plunged into WWII, Elizabeth Bentley was directing the operations of the two largest spy rings in America. Eventually, she had eighty people in her secret apparatus, half of them employees of the federal government. Her sources were everywhere: in the departments of Treasury and Commerce, in New Deal agencies, in the top-secret OSS (the precursor to the CIA), on Congressional committees, even in the Oval Office.

When she defected in 1945 and told her story&#8212;first to the FBI and then at a series of public hearings and trials&#8212;she was catapulted to tabloid fame as the "Red Spy Queen," ushering in, almost single-handedly, the McCarthy Era. She was the governments star witness, the FBIs most important informer, and the darling of the Catholic anti-Communist movement. Her disclosures and accusations put a halt to Russian spying for years and helped to set the tone of American postwar political life.

But who was she? A smart, independent woman who made her choices freely, right and wrong, and had the strength of character to see them through? Or was she used and manipulated by others? Clever Girl is the definitive biography of a conflicted American woman and her controversial legacy. Set against the backdrop of the political drama that defined mid-twentieth century America, it explores the spy case whose explosive domestic and foreign policy repercussions have been debated for decades but not fully revealed&#8212;until now.

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